For the biggest part of my childhood life, mahjong was a weekly social event for my family. It usually involves a session after lunch, that may stretch into the night, interspersed with dinner with my grandmother, my aunt’s family, and my own family. My brother picked it up at quite a young age, and I, got dragged into learning it too soon after. He always had a good eye for tiles, and would often win games between my cousin and I.
For my brother’s birthday this year, I thought this may be a great source of inspiration for his birthday cake. I immediately knew that the colour of the back of the mahjong tiles had to be gold, to remind him of the mahjong set that he has not played with since my aunt purchased for him in Hong Kong and is in my mum’s possession in Malaysia. To start, I struggled to find what would be the best way to create a replica of the mahjong tiles. And then I realized that the only way to do so is to make a mould of each of the mahjong tiles, and to do so I remembered watching Verusca Walker’s tutorial on Learn Cake Decorating Online on how to make molds – done!
I did not follow all the steps on making the mold, because heaven forbids, if anything happened to the real mahjong tiles that I had, I’d be in a lot of trouble with my family! I am sure some families keep mahjong sets as somewhat of an heirloom, and I did my best in avoiding any damages made to the set that I had. So instead of forcing the whole tile into a blob of unused fondant, I rolled out fondant “tiles” enough to grab hold of the indents and detail on each character, and I let them harden up. Once they become firm to use, I can then make an impression on the cut-up mahjong tiles. Oh wait, I just made impression moulds!
The mahjong tiles were made with white fondant with CMC powder so that it hardens faster. I eyeballed when I was cutting them into individual tiles, ending up in tiles of different sizes – should have followed the exact dimensions and carefully measured them, dang it! Mahjong tiles, I have come to learn over the years, come in different thicknesses depending on how the owner likes to hold it in his or her hands. Mine were fairly thick for this cake project, which gives it plenty of room to paint on the colour at the back of the fondant tiles. Once they have been cut into individual tiles, I pressed the impression moulds firmly onto each tile so that it leaves the imprint that I need to paint on later. And all there is to it is to use gel colours watered down with vodka to paint in the indentations left behind by the molds to create the characters. Do they look alike to you?
I placed a birthday message on the cake with more confidence this time, with a big thank you to Karen from Lick The Bowl, who showcased a quick video tutorial on how to use Tappits and how to arrange lettering on a cake. I found it to be very useful and it definitely saved me a lot of time, so thank you to the Australian Cake Decorating Network for organizing it!
After I had the cake, and later on the tiles and the birthday message, I thought it lacked something. It needed a burst of colour, and it occurred to me that “real” mahjong games need chips for it to feel that you’re playing. Without further ado, I went on to cut fondant “chips” – probably the easiest part of making the cake. The different colours denote different denominations when playing, and I had the chips marked with an indentation and painted gold. All that’s left was to assemble the components on the cake, and it was ready!
Cakes like these are meant to impress and evoke memories, and my brother was impressed with it, I hope. And I hope that you may find some techniques useful in this blog post.